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Syncbubble Dubbles: Can Whitehouse’s John Smith or Director Stephen Hopkins Topple Shirley Temple from PlayStation 2’s Mountain?

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What happened when the award-winning spot from Frank Budgen and TBWA London got a musical makeover?

Syncbubble Dubbles: Can Whitehouse’s John Smith or Director Stephen Hopkins Topple Shirley Temple from PlayStation 2’s Mountain?

Frank Budgen, a mad scramble for victory and sweet little Shirley Temple – Playstation 2’s ‘Mountain’ spot from TBWA London was the second most awarded ad of 2004 and with that combination it’s no surprise. 

This week Whitehouse co-founder and editor John Smith and director Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2, 24, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers) cast their craftsmen’s eye on the ad and see if they can ascend to the heights of Temple’s ‘De Gospel Train’. Musical makeovers are usually tough, but ‘Mountain’ is an ad that’s already pushing the boundaries of brilliantly quirky obscurity when it comes to the sound track (the song comes from the critically-slated 1936 movie ‘Dimples’).  

Find out how Stephen and John got on below. And don’t forget, if you want to have a go, you can join in by heading to Check back next week to see if your new version of Mountain has made our showcase.

John Smith - Co-founder and Editor at Whitehouse Post

To view John's selections, click here.

I chose Playstation 2’s ‘Mountain’ for this experiment firstly as I love the ad but also because this is the most perfect example of how juxtaposition between big powerful dark visuals and a small friendly nostalgic soundtrack can work so beautifully.

Shirley Temple singing “get on board” against a backdrop of thousands of people clamouring to join in and build this human mountain is a total contradiction and the perfect way to treat this kind of idea. It’s as inspired a choice as the idea itself.

Very hard to beat but a great commercial to use in this challenge as it’s really hard to find anything as perfect: everything else just feels contrived and obvious.

I originally thought of using Puccini's Madame Butterfly to show how different it would feel and even tried using my favourite all time movie theme score by Ennio Morricone from Once upon a time in America. The problem is they feel like they are trying too hard (although big themes, they feel cliché).

Often, a famous piece of music gets thrown up against an average idea and it doesn't really work.It has to be a good idea to start with and not rely on a good track otherwise it’s generally not a good idea.

There are many examples of ads where the idea is ordinary and a big track has been bought and used to help it flow. This can be successful, but in most cases you remember the track and not often the product or even the brand. I've chose 3 pieces and I think they all kind of work in their own way.

"Lux Aeterna" from ‘Requiem for a Dream’

The theme from Requiem for a Dream has a dark foreboding quality which fits the mood of the film when you consider it’s basically thousands of people getting crushed to death. It certainly doesn't work in lightening the tone and feels obvious so it's wrong, but a good example of a more obvious way to go and something the filmmakers and client would want to stay away from.

"Bad Guys" from Bugsy Malone

On the other hand, the song from Bugsy Malone has that childish upbeat quality which also works as a counter point to the pretty harrowing drama that unfolds and works in a similar way to the track they used.

"The Deadwood Stage" from Calamity Jane

Finally “The Deadwood Stage” by Doris Day from Calamity Jane because it also brings some lightness and fun to the ad... and she was my first ever movie star crush.

Finding the right music can sometimes be as challenging and time consuming as editing the work itself, but with the right choice it can transform and elevate. However, make the wrong choice and your ad can be relegated to the “cheesy and trying too hard” category. Oh, how I wish I’d cut this ad and found the music. It’s one of the best examples of music juxtaposition I've ever seen in a commercial.

Stephen Hopkins - Director

To view Stephen's selections, click here.

It is hard to find a TV commercial which has somehow managed to achieve uniqueness.  Clearly the visuals for Playstation – Mountain are completely arresting & mysterious, and there is nothing to explain what is even being advertised.Of course you will remember the ad vividly and want to find out more about the product though, because the confidence of the idea and style is shocking and strong. 

The only type of film it really reminds me of is a horror / zombie movie, so clearly the music has to make you feel differently about the piece than that.

The 3 tracks I have chosen hopefully show different sides of the film, but it’s hard to beat the Shirley Temple piece, that’s for sure. 

"Wake Up, Stop Dreaming” by Wang Chung

Otherworldly but still fun and a dash sinister in a disco-y light hearted way. It seems to support the metaphorical insanity of the story unfolding in front of you. 

“Going Underground” by the Jam

This feels triumphant and powerful next to the visuals without feeling too scary. It also has an anthemic and anarchic energy that seemed to suit.

“I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire” by the Inkspots

This makes me smile. It’s so sweet and ethereal compared to the raw energy in the film. I felt it gave a dream like quality to the madness.

I've never seen a commercial like this and probably won’t see something as powerful and captivating anytime soon.


Who’d have thought that an old Shirley Temple would be so tricky to beat? Well, there’s probably a reason sweet little girls always so totally creepy in horror films - formidable adversaries. Still, both of this week’s Dubblers embraced the challenge with a real imagination and insight that lays out the transformative power of music.

For Syncbubble’s Simon Elms, the choices made are a thoughtful exploration of the relationship between visuals and music. “I find it really heartening when other people take the time to analyse the potential functionality of music instead of just choosing music that they like. Music supervision is not just about being creative, there's also science involved. What do these pictures need? Have we told the storey we set out tell? Is the scene just too dark? Too slow? The right track can not only create magic but it can also paper over the cracks. Mind you there's no cracks here. This ad is perfection and Shirley Temple is a really hard act to follow but Stephen's almost made me like The Jam and I think John's 'Bugsy's' track is genius.” 

“As a respected industry editor, John’s tackled the task with the kind of understanding of tone and rhythm you’d expect. The Bugsy Malone track is all about pacing and the madcap crescendo. Meanwhile with his ‘Requiem for a Dream’ choice, he’s deliberately showing how problematic the ‘obvious’ choice can be and how important music can be for taking a spot to the ‘right place,” says LBB’s Laura Swinton. “As for Calamity Jane, well I’m with him all the way.”

Meanwhile Stephen’s taken the idea of unusual juxtapositions and taken it in all kinds of directions. “The mildly trippy, laid-back wooziness of the Wang Chung track is a really clever choice – it immediately gave me that weird, disconnected and confused feeling you get when you find yourself swept up in a massive crowd. And then on the other hand you’ve got The Jam, which turns the spot into a rather enjoyable Tough Mudder-style mad dash,” says Laura.

This week’s Syncbubble Dubbles is perhaps the most dramatic example yet of how music can totally transform the emotion and meaning of an ad. Both Stephen and John are somewhat in awe of the ad and obviously have a lot of respect for what the original team did, but their choices certainly cast the spot in a new light. So what do you think? Did they give li’l Curly Top a run for her money? And can you come up with better? Head to to have a go.

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LBB Editorial, Wed, 14 Jan 2015 18:17:20 GMT